Monday, October 8, 2012

Campaign signs stolen in Durham's race for the Board of County Commissioners

Candidates vying for the five spots on the Durham Board of County Commissioners are faced with tough battles.  Each works tirelessly to convince local political action committees they are the best for the job.  Candidates have to raise money to advertise their bid for office, and they have to stray from all appearance of evil.  In Durham, that means not rubbing elbows with a person with dirty laundry.  The impression of evil is often viewed as proof of guilt.
Durham, like all cities, has its share of mudslinging. Listen close and you will overhear a person talk about your mother.  Things can get rude in local politics. Rumors are spread to destroy credibility.  Look close and you will find people looking under rocks to find secrets to end a person’s bid for office.
Yes, Durham is a tolerant city, but politics is messy in a place known for being bullheaded.  That’s why I’m not shocked at a common campaign strategy in Durham.  It’s illegal.  It’s mean.  It’s disgusting and needs to be stopped. 
Candidates for local office are forced to contend with people stealing their campaign signs.
“There are a few areas in the city where my signs get stolen as soon as I put them out,” Brenda Howerton, incumbent on the commissions says.  “Signs are expenses.  I’ve spent $1,000 on signs alone.”
Howerton is not alone in having to deal with stolen campaign signs.  “It disturbs me when I see my signs taken in an area with other candidates and their signs aren’t taken,” Omar Beasley says.  “It makes you wonder about who is behind it all.” Beasley is making a serious run for the Board of County Commissioners after a successful petition drive to be placed on the ballot.
“My signs are removed all the time,” says Wendy Jacobs, candidate for the Board of County Commissioners. “It is really hard to know if it is people who don’t want me to win, people who are mowing and remove them or people who just don’t like campaign signs blighting the landscape. It is probably a combination of all three.”
So, who are the people behind the sign theft?  Is this a battle over turf? 
Those campaign signs are all over the city.  It’s not unusual to see more than one in the same location as if competing for the attention of those making their way home.  “Hey you, look at me, look at me.  I have pretty colors and check out my unique design,” one can imagine after watching all those signs bunched together like soldiers in an army.
They all look the same until you get accustomed to the small details distinguishing them from the rest.  Some have pictures.  Many of them would be better without pictures.  Most use red, white and blue.  Some take risk with color schemes that leave you wondering why they even bothered.  After a few weeks of viewing them, they take on the personality of the people they represent.
Some have bold personalities and like the way they look.  Others are laid back and are content with simply stating their name.  Many reflect a desire to step outside the box.  How else can you explain a person with a green sign?
I’ve wondered about why they show up at certain locations.  I’m sure it’s because they all want to be found in an area where they can be seen.  The people who select locations seem to be unconcerned about the other signs waving for attention.  These signs don’t lack confidence.  They’re certain they will be noticed more than the half dozen others bunched together on the side of the road.
Or, maybe that's why some get stolen.
It’s political turf war. Can you hear the signs screaming, “Hey dude, this is my corner!”  It would be nice if the signs would say what was felt when someone placed them next to the competition. “I’ve got this corner.  Find your own place.”
Those signs are like the politicians they represent.  Each is fighting to be noticed, and in the world of local politics they fight for attention.  When someone attempts to steal a candidate’s position, you knock them down, get in front of them or find a way to remove them from the competition.
“I can’t even tell you how often and where because it is so frequent,” Jacobs says. “The latest I noticed yesterday is a candidate whose signs have recently been placed directly in front of mine in many places.”
There’s no way of knowing who is stealing the signs.  Maybe it’s part of the game to win public office.  Those signs speak beyond the colors and print promoting the people they represent. They are fighting to determine who owns the block.
Come to think about it, politics has a lot in common with gang warfare.  Just like those Crips and Bloods, each is fighting for a place on the corner.  Gang members kill each other.  Candidates steal signs.
Sometimes I hear the voice of my first grade teacher, “children, children stop fighting, and don’t steal his toys”
What can you say? It’s hard to grow up when you’re fighting to win.

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